This article is written by Ritika Srivastava of The ICFAI University, Dehradun and Curated by Athira Albert of Kristu Jayanti College of Law, Bangalore.
India is facing a sudden spike in the number of covid-19 cases, another wave of novel corona virus. The country reported over 3 lacs cases per day. It is rising at an alarming rate which is literally not excellent news for any of us. The situation is getting worse day by day, with hospitals unbearly full, oxygen supplies running low, people dying in line waiting to see doctors and therefore the actual toll of death is way above than officially reported. The level of fear reaches the position that the people started wearing PPE kits while stepping outside.
The Election Commission also granted permission to hold elections in this horrific and pathetic situation most of the states are directing elections. Such states are West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Kerala. The parties with full zeal and enthusiasm are conducting rallies with large gatherings of individual, mostly without face masks. In spite of focusing on the crisis where there is a lack of oxygen supplies and beds, the government is busy fighting elections and conducting rallies.
Election Commission’s Responsibilities
As a massive rise in the covid-19 cases, the EC issued certain guidelines with the suggestion of various political parties, chief electoral officers of states and UTs on the election campaign. The commission planned regarding the management of preventive measures and these guidelines will be equipped in consultation with the Nodal officers for covid-19 in their respective states/UTs.
Every person involved in election related activity is compelled to wear a face mask.
At the entrance of the polling areas there must:
Sanitizer, soap etc shall be available.
Large hall should be identified for polling.
There must be a limited number of vehicles present there for polling personnel, security personnel to ensure compliance of covid-19 guidelines.
On 28th April, EC announced certain more guidelines regarding counting. It made it mandatory for the candidate and their agent to show their negative RT-PCR report within 48 hours of start of counting or to show their complete vaccination only after which they would be permitted to enter the centre. Proper sanitization of the hall, added later on. The candidates or their agents, in order to enter the counting hall on 2nd May in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu must have taken both the doses of vaccine. Moreover, there shall be no public gathering outside the centre, shall have sufficient arrangement of PPE kits and the hall shall be large (proper ventilation) as per available protocol of the State Disaster Management Authority.
Election Commission’s Liabilities on the failure of Covid Protocols
“You (Election Commission) are the only institution that is responsible for the situation today….No action against political parties taking rallies despite every order of the court” said Justice Sanjib Banerjee
Election Commission fails to stop abuse of Covid-19 Protocol during rallies, polling campaign. The honourable court of Madras in its proceeding called EC an “irresponsible institution” and put the charges of Murder. The writ petition is filed by Tamil Nadu minister M.R. Vijaybhaskar for the sake of public interest to ensure fair counting. The bench in its decision also threatened the EC that if they did not find the proper arrangement of Covid-19 at the venue of counting on 2nd May, then in that situation they would stop the counting of assembly votes.
The campaign is involved in rallies with large numbers of people – with least social distancing and wearing of face masks. Political Parties have continued to break the protocol set by EC. Indian commission has warned many times on gatherings but they don’t appear to have been heeded.
The Election Commission is singularly accountable for the widespread of the Covid-19, it fails to stop the massive political rallies in the country where all the protocols are violated. The remark of High Court is apt; the EC is liable under murder charges because it cost death of large number of people. The graph of corona rose suddenly in the month of April when the rallies started. No action against the parties has been taken despite court orders. The people are also criticising EC over their decision on conducting political rallies. The importance to hold such protocol might be destroyed by the EC going by the puerile silence on campaign and rallies conducted without proper norms being maintained in the wanton disregard of the other items of the protocol.
“Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing that constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard. It is only when citizens survive that they enjoy the other rights that this democratic republic guarantees unto them. The situation is now one of survival and protection and, everything else comes thereafter,” the court said.
The Election Commission is directly or indirectly accountable for the widespread, as election during this situation is totally a fallacious decision. Election is for the welfare of the citizen and if they are affected by election, it is of no use. It should be postponed as the parties did not follow any of the guidelines or norms after a number of warnings. The candidate continues to think about themselves and not the society. Not a single party took an initiative for the cancellation of the election, but gathered a large number of people in their rallies without following the Covid norms. Hence, people are dying and the graph of death rate is increasing, but the government is silent, EC is silent but it’s the society who is being affected.